By Marice Richter
GRAPEVINE, Texas (Reuters) - Dressed in a Santa suit, Aziz Yazdanapah showed up at his estranged wife's home near Dallas during a Christmas celebration with her sister's family, and killed everyone before turning the gun on himself, police believe.
The seven bodies were discovered strewn in the living room area of the Grapevine apartment, amid opened presents and near a Christmas tree.
Police identified the dead on Tuesday as two families connected through a pair of sisters.
Suspected shooter Aziz Yazdanpanah, 58, had been estranged from his wife and two teenage children when they moved out of the family's upscale home in nearby Colleyville earlier this year.
His wife, Fatemeh Rahmati, 56, who was a licensed manicurist at a local salon, as well as their daughter, Nona Yazdanpanah, 19, and their son, Ali Yazdanpanah, 14, were also killed.
In the other family, who were visiting Rahmati's apartment on Christmas morning, were her sister, Zohreh Rahmaty, 58, Hossein Zarei, 59, and daughter Sahra Zarei, 22.
"Aziz is the one that was dressed in the Santa suit, and whom we believe ... to be the shooter at this time," Grapevine Police Lieutenant Todd Dearing told Reuters late on Tuesday.
"It was a family incident, they were all related by marriage or blood," he added.
The dead were found by police answering a voiceless 911 emergency call, authorities said.
Evidence released by police on Tuesday narrowed the time of the shooting down to an 18-minute window between 11:16 a.m. when one of the victims sent an "innocuous" text message and 11:34 when the 911 call was received, Dearing said.
The text message "said something along the lines of 'I'm here, Aziz is here dressed as Santa, trying to be the Dad of the Year,'" Dearing said.
It was not immediately clear who sent or received the message.
'QUIET BUT VERY NICE'
Dearing said investigators do not yet know whether Yazdanpanah arrived at the apartment with the intention of killing his family and in-laws.
"We can't possibly know his full intent," Dearing told Reuters. "We don't know whether he was invited or not invited. It could be that Fatemeh told him he could stop by and drop off presents."
Yazdanpanah's family, Iranian immigrants who had settled in the Dallas-Fort Worth area decades ago, had been fighting foreclosure and had declared bankruptcy on their home, a 3,000-square foot house built in 1990 and recently valued near $350,000, according to public records.
Neighbors said that while bankruptcy and foreclosure proceedings moved through the courts, Yazdanpanah had continued to live in the home on Sycamore Court in Colleyville, which borders Grapevine, known for its upscale suburban lifestyle and situated just a few miles away from the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.
He was a friendly man who loved his children, neighbors said.
"They were very good neighbors," said Fred Ditmars, who lived across the street from the family for more than four years. "Quiet but very nice."
Ditmars said Yazdanpanah would watch his house when he and his family were away.
The killings rocked the quiet, festive Dallas suburb dubbed the "Christmas Capital of Texas" and known more for its tourism, Christmas season events, festivals and vineyards than for violence. It was the worst outburst of gun violence in the history of the town, which hadn't seen a homicide since June 2010.
Two pistols were recovered from the home, said Sergeant Robert Eberling of the Grapevine police department, who called it a "gruesome crime scene."
No one was found alive by police arriving at the home, he said.
A memorial organized by Nona Yazdanpanah's best friend is scheduled to take place at Parr Park in Grapevine on Wednesday at 5:30 p.m.
(Additional reporting by Karen Brooks and Tim Gaynor; Editing by Jerry Norton)